This page provides a number of questions and answers relating to how MOOCs address Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). It is aimed at three broad kinds of institutions: those new to MOOCs, those who have a little experience with MOOCs, and those well-experienced in making their own MOOCs. As such, not all questions are relevant to all readers. The questions are grouped under three main categories (click on the question to receive an answer):
1. MOOC basics
|What are MOOCs?||MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses. There is no unambiguous, straightforward and broadly accepted definition of a MOOC, but a European collaborative has developed the following clear operational definition: “An online course designed for large number of participants that can be accessed by anyone anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection, is open to everyone without entry qualifications and offers a full/complete course experience online for free” (Brouns et al., 2014). There are different types of MOOC (see below).
This chapter of the MOOC BOOK offers a basic description of MOOC, discusses common forms of MOOC and demonstrates a series of connections to both open and online education.
|What’s the difference from other online courses and open education?||To understand MOOC, it is essential to understand how they differ from other educational provision. MOOCs differ from ‘regular’ online courses in at least three aspects:
Further information on different kinds and characteristics of online or blended courses is provided in the MOOC BOOK chapter, part ”How does a MOOC differ from an online course?”
|What types of MOOCs exist?||The most common distinction is made between ‘cMOOC’ (‘c’ for connectivity) and ‘xMOOC’ (‘x’ for multiplication, scale), i.e. whether they are designed for an interactive exchange between students and lecturers or primarily for distribution/multiplication of content. The following distinction is overly simplistic (as there are often collaborative elements in xMOOCs, and cMOOCs can also be quite structured), but it provides an overview of the learning setting to expect in each type:
The best approach is thus likely to depend greatly on context.
In addition, as the MOOC movement advances, new alternatives in the form of online or blended courses evolve, such as hMOOC (Hybrid-MOOC), SPOC (Self Private Online Course), DOCC (Distributed Open Collaborative Course) etc.
This chapter of the MOOC BOOK examines the pedagogy associated with MOOCs and explores how the historical development of MOOCs led to two main schools of thought regarding approach.
|Are MOOCs generally free?||Per their definition as ‘open’, MOOCs are usually free to access and study. However, there are monetary costs associated with them and MOOC providers are constantly searching for sustainable business models. Examples inclide: Free participation, with fee-based certification; tutoring; individual coaching; tailoring courses to specific target groups; providing follow-up resources; or other services.
The “business models” chapter of the MOOC BOOK provides a overview of the running costs and revenues of MOOCs and their associated services as well as further readings.
The “certification” chapter outlines different paid-for models of certification in MOOCs.
|Do HEIs recognise MOOCs issued by other institutions?||Until recently most universities wouldn’t consider recognising MOOCs as formal learning, but certified MOOC learning is sometimes recognised as prior learning – this will depend on the university.
The issue around identity and credit is of highest importance. Once a student completes a MOOC, the University needs to ensure that he or she has really learned something and earned the credit. One possible solution is for institutions and MOOC entities to develop working partnerships with testing centers and verification technology companies. Recently MOOC providers are offering the possibility of acquiring formal credit for MOOC completion, and in some cases they are already accepted as part of a formal (Bachelor or Master) program. The credibility of MOOC content and completion is less contentious when the MOOC is produced by the HEI. In this case the recognition of credits can be automatic. Some universities partner with MOOC platforms instead of producing own MOOCs and still recognise the credits.
For example, FutureLearn has linked programs of MOOCs to particular degree programmes in universities, allowing students to transfer this credit into their study. Delft University similarly offers credits for MOOCs for existing students, allowing them to expand their curriculum. Furthermore, many MOOCs are recognised as part of shorter programmes, for example MOOC platforms offering nanodegrees in partnership such as Udacity or micromaster offered by edX. Moreover, Udacity promises a job based on their nanodegrees (so recognised by employers) and edX partners state that micromasters are recognized in their formal (bachelor and master) degrees.
As we can see, collaborations between MOOC providers and universities are increasing. In Europe this process seems to take further time, but the EU-wide ECTS system provides a promising basis for future activity.
The chapter on “recognition“ of the MOOC BOOK provides further information on this topic.
|What reasons are there for HEIS to be involved in MOOCs?||The most important reasons for higher education institutions to be involved in MOOCs are:
|What means are there to evaluate if a MOOC offering is good enough?||Before undertaking a MOOC, you may wish to assess and review its quality on several levels (quality, delivery, appropriacy, etc.). There are a number of ways you can identify and assess the quality of a MOOC:
This chapter of the MOOC BOOK provides more information about quality evaluation of MOOCs.
2. MOOC adoption
|How much does it cost to produce and run a MOOC?||Production and development for MOOCs vary between courses and between countries. The amount of money invested is typically dependent on factors such as:
Naturally, the production of MOOCs by HEIs is highly dependent upon the existing knowledge, experience, equipment and content available prior to course production, etc.
For each presentation of a course on a MOOC platform, operational costs for teachers, assistants, facilitators and mentors are incurred. Additional costs are needed for the MOOC platform, a fee (annual or per MOOC) for a partnership with a MOOC provider, marketing, etc.
This chapter of the MOOC BOOK focuses on existing MOOC business models describing its monetary costs as well as direct and indirect revenues of MOOCs and their associated services, and offers further readings for related issues.
|Are MOOCs only an extra expense or also a possible new income source for HEIs?||The production and launching of MOOCs is definitely an extra expense for an HEI. The costs connected with the MOOCs development and implementation can be reduced by:
In spite of unavoidable and necessary costs, MOOCs carry several potential opportunities for increasing income. These might include:
Direct revenue streams can be generated only through additional services or products sold on-line as complementation or expansion of the core MOOC.
Additionally, it should be considered (in terms of financing the extra expenses of MOOCs) the uneven status and resource availability in each country/region and type of HEI. In Europe, the provision of higher education is funded and partly controlled by national governments. The continental European approach to higher education is typically state-funded in which most institutions have equal resources and status while the more market-based U.S. model has mixed private-public funding and provision with large difference between HEIs. These differences reflect in institutional policies. See more in the BizMOOC discussion paper “BizMOOC-paper-04-Drivers behind MOOCs “.
Overall, MOOCs do not yet have a provensustainable economic model. Their production costs are high if the quality is to be competitive, and their benefits or potential returns are indirect and often long term. However, improved image and visibility, a stronger brand, higher student enrolment thanks to a positive opinion gained through HEI MOOCs and new collaboration avenues are (indirect) long-term benefits which are absolutely key for any HEI in today’s global competitive educational services environment.
This article discusses how “Colleges and universities begin to assess the benefits of MOOCs”.
|How can HEIs stimulate the creation of MOOCs?||The fact that MOOCs require considerable investment and, at the same time, do not guarantee immediate returns is certainly another reason for caution, particularly in times of economic and financial crisis. You cannot expect much progress in MOOCs if additional funding is not available and appropriate adjustments of the regulatory frameworks that support universities’ activities (of both students and staff) and their institutional partners need to take place. As in all areas where strategic institutional and national developments are required, policymakers and university associations and networks should facilitate dialogue and exchange among them. See more on this in the BizMOOC paper “Identification of regions and players lagging behind in MOOC Initiatives”
Main motivation drivers for HEIs regarding the MOOCs creation include: enhancing education opportunities for students, increasing the Institution’s visibility and renown, and ultimately increasing student enrolment.
In order to stimulate the creation of MOOCs, HEIs need to convince other parties to engage in the participation and creation of. HEIs can play the role of driver in the process of MOOCs creation and popularisation. This can be done by buildting coalitions between universities, businesses, organizations and institutions and achieving the important synergies. See more in the BizMOOC paper “Drivers behind MOOCs /reasons to get involved“.
|What are the options for MOOCs’ validation and certification policy?||Assessing and certifying learners’ achievements remains a challenge facing online education. Validation and recognition instruments used in formal education are in the process of adapting to the emergence of a much more diverse educational offer, including new education providers and the new forms of technology-based and technology-enhanced learning.
Certain HEIs already validate the learning effects of MOOCs as part of their policy on the validation of non-formal and informal learning. Students can gain ECTS points by completing certain MOOCs (a list of MOOCs eligible for validation must be constructed in this scenario). However, this institutional-level validation is not enough given the European HE environment, where students are highly mobile. Learning effects and ECTS points obtained through MOOCs which are validated by one HEI can be declined by another HEI. In this context, even national level regulations and guidelines are not enough and a shared understanding is needed.
In the case of the European region, the Bologna Process plays a significant role. The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is a tool of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), so it is only used within HE systems, making studies and courses comparable and transparent across the European Union. Therefore, there is an urgent need to work towards unifying the validation and accreditation criteria in relation to MOOCs across the European Union.
The biggest challenge in this context is the development of new tools and procedures for validating and recognising MOOCs which can only be best achieved if a partnership between MOOC providers (regardless of whether they are HEIs or other providers and industry) were created for this purpose. These new tools should respect the principles set out in the Council Recommendation for the Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning (Daniel et al., 2015; European Commission, 2012) in synergy with established validation and recognition tools and contribute to the creation of a European Area for Skills and Qualifications, the latter aiming to address the diversity of practices across Member States and promote an effective recognition across borders. See more in the BizMOOC paper “Issues for MOOC recognition / certification / accreditation”.
|How to finance the production of MOOCs?||MOOCs offer a complete course experience to learners for free. Since direct revenues from MOOC courses are often lower than the cost to produce and host the courses, the cost are not (directly) paid by MOOC participants. This means they are funded by other parties, usually the creators of the course or their institution. An optimal approach to financing MOOC creation and dissemination is coalitions and partnerships with public institutions or private businesses. Sharing production costs can be driven by multiplying benefits and participating in the payback.
MOOCs can generate revenue streams that compensate for the development and operational costs. The turnover could be achieved via additional customer-focused services that can be derived from the free MOOC offerings such as: issuing certifications and paid Statements of Participations; donations; “Specialized” Course Curricula; individual coaching; remedial courses; tailored courses for employees as part of professional development training (e.g., Small Private Online Course based on a MOOC); providing training to those who need specific qualifications to access HE.
More details in the BizMOOC discussion paper ”Existing MOOC business models”.
|Is it possible for HEIs to transform existing e-learning courses into MOOCs?||t is possible to transform existing e-learning courses into MOOCs. Contents from the e-learning course can be a great starting point to creating a MOOC. This can be a type of content recycling, by transforming the content into a new form adequate for MOOCs. Several aspects, which differ MOOCs from e-learning courses must be kept in mind:
MOOCs play a role in human development and support long-life learning. Transforming university e-learning courses into MOOCs is challenging, requires adapting a global audience perspective of learners from various backgrounds and ensuring feasibility of use.
3. Advanced MOOC concepts
|Do MOOCs contribute to retaining skilled people in the country (avoiding brain drain)?||As an example, only 43 % of Coursera students’ derive from North America (UNESCO, 2013, pp. 5-6). The remaining 57 % are distributed around the world and derive from Asia (26 %), Europe (17 %), South America (10 %), Australia (2 %) and Africa (2 %). In the meanwhile, Coursera expanded even further to the Asian market. According to the MOOC provider ‘edX’, more than half of their students are from developing countries (The Economist, 2014, p. 21).
Further information in the BizMOOC papers:
|Do MOOCs work as a marketing strategy for HEIs?||MOOCs can be a powerful tool within HEIs’ marketing strategies, and this is reflected in their broad uptake. The range of possibilities and high success expectations have motivated Universities to explore this form of provision. However, the number of institutions offering MOOCs in the same field is constantly rising, making it more important to determine and compare the quality of the different courses in order to differentiate offerings. Further information in the MOOC BOOK chapter “Drivers behind MOOCs/reasons to get involved and Existing MOOC quality models”.
In some cases, formal recognition is the main motivation for learners and marketing approaches can reflect this. Awarding credits or certifications is also a good way to confer some credibility on these courses. Further information in the MOOC BOOK chapter “Issues for MOOC recognition / certification / accreditation”.
|What regulations may have to be taken into account?||MOOCs were not meant from the beginning to be part of formal education, but as time passes, more and more students have been enrolling in these types of courses. Thus, legal frameworks are changing to adapt to this new reality. However, this framework very much differs from country to country. Further information can be found in the MOOC BOOK chapter “Existing MOOC initiatives in higher education and business sector and the distribution of MOOC learners in EU28”.
In the case of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) there is a strong case for paying attention to the relevant regulations. These are territorial rights whose scope depends on national legislation, despite a certain degree of harmonization by virtue of international agreements. Therefore, MOOC promoters and/or creators must take into account not only their national IPR legislation but also the international IPR framework and copyright. Further information in the MOOC BOOK chapter “Massive Open Online Courses and Intellectual Property Rights Issues“.
|What are the Intellectual Property issues related to MOOC usage?||Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are territorial rights whose scope depends on national legislations, despite a certain degree of harmonization by virtue of international agreements. MOOC promoters and/or creators must take into account not only their national IPR legislation but also the international IPR framework, namely copyright exceptions, ownership and authorisation and delivery of contents including copyleft-based models and the so-called Open Educational Resources.
More detailed information in the MOOC BOOK chapter “Issues for MOOC recognition / certification / accreditation”.
Authors: Marcin Karwiński/Agnieszka (Żur University of Economics Krakow), Mariya Monova-Zheleva / Yanislav Panayotov Zhelev (Burgas Free University), Francisco José Gallego Dolón (University of Alicante)
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